May 6, 2021

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Gmail web client cannot properly handle inclusive emojis

2 min read


If you frequently use Gmail’s native web client to send emails, you might have noticed something strange about the way it handles emoji. Google may have said goodbye to its signature blobs in , but for some reason Gmail on the web renders most emojis in this style. As someone who will stick with blobs until the end of time, it’s a Gmail quirk that I loved.

But it turns out that the same trend has kept the web client from making the which have been approved by the Unicode Consortium in recent years. Want to include a dark-skinned scientist emoji in your next email? You can, but if your friend reads this email on their desktop browser, rather than their phone, they’ll see a weird box between two other emojis.

documented the problem in a detailed article he published on Wednesday. In short, it looks like the Gmail team failed to update the way the web client handles emoji translation. It cannot properly combine multiple characters into a single emoji, which is required for any emoji that allows for variations in gender and skin tone.

And it’s not just the newer ones integrating gender and race that aren’t performing well. The client does not support the majority of new characters introduced since mid-2015. The effect is less obvious with some less complicated ones as it will default to your system by default. So let’s say you are using Windows 10, you will see newer emoji rendered in Microsoft style. To be clear, this is not a problem with the Gmail app on Android and iOS, because in this case it also defaults to the system font.

According to Emojipedia, there is no known workaround for the problem at this time. In a way, its reporting highlights the challenge that can sometimes be involved in implementing these types of features. But as a member of the Unicode consortium and a provider of one of the most popular email clients on the planet, it’s up to Google to do this kind of work.



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